HOUSATONIC — A crowd of nearly 100 parishioners celebrated Mass on Saturday evening in Housatonic with the Most Rev. Mitchell Rozanski, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield. The bishop was in town to celebrate the canonization of Mother Teresa in Rome on Sunday.
"I'm here to give thanks to God with the congregation for the canonization," Rozanski said.
The bishop told The Eagle that sainthood is the highest honor a person can receive from the Catholic Church. It elevates the individual to becoming worthy of veneration, an intercessor with God. The canonization of Mother Teresa was assured this year once her third miracle was confirmed, Rozanski said.
The elevation of Mother Teresa will change the name of Housatonic's Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish at Corpus Christi Church to Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish at Corpus Christi Church. The change has prompted a weekend of celebration at the church in the village.
Parishioner Fran Locke said she was happy that the bishop was visiting. Locke has been a member of the Great Barrington-Housatonic St. Peter's Parish her entire life. Having the church's namesake canonized was exciting, and the added star power of the bishop was a bonus, Locke said.
"I've seen him before, at St. Peter's," she said. "It's great that he's here in Housatonic."
Rozanski's celebrity drew more than just local media. CatholicTV's Springfield reporter Carolee McGrath was on hand to film the proceedings for the network's "Real to Reel" magazine show.
For all his star power, the bishop was more interested in talking about Mother Teresa's mission than he was in discussing himself.
A question about his past work before coming to the diocese two years ago was quickly pivoted into a celebration of the Mother Teresa Missions of Charity work in his native Baltimore.
"They set up a convent to work with victims of AIDS in the poorest neighborhoods there," he said. "Her work continues."
The Mother Teresa Missions of Charity are worldwide, Rozanski explained. In his homily, the bishop mourned the loss of four Sisters with the organization that he said were martyred in Yemen in March. He praised their devotion to helping the poor in the face of danger — Teresa's mission continuing.
The Rev. Mike Wood, who is originally from Pittsfield, joined the bishop in his trip. Wood and St. Peter's Parish head the Rev. William Murphy celebrated Mass alongside the bishop.
"Father Murphy has been planning this celebration for months," Rozanski said.
Today, the church will hold a celebratory Mass from 9 to 10 a.m. After the service there will be a community brunch.
Celebrations of Teresa's canonization in the area continue. Next Saturday, Susan Conroy, a biographer of Mother Teresa, will give a talk on the newly canonized saint's life at Camp Holy Cross in Goshen. The diocese hopes that the public will attend.
But for this weekend, the bishop was happy to be in the Berkshires with St. Peter's Parish.
"It's a real privilege to be celebrating this moment with the tens of thousands around the world and especially the parishioners here in Housatonic," Rozanski said.